Slow Burn.

Yuito is a match unlit, yearning for something to burn for. He latches onto all the wrong things in a desperate attempt to find that spark; friends who stay for the fair weather but not the storms, late nights that bled into mornings and sweep him up through hazy afternoons that promise hangovers and blackouts but rarely any clarity. Yuito is bright enough to know he isn't clever but stupid enough that it still hurts, so he gives up on ever finding anything at school. It's not like school hasn't already given up him.

He searches for that missing spark elsewhere, in places that don't involve classrooms and detention.

He finds passion on the streets, in back alley basketball courts that are nothing more than a hoop nicked from the better side of town and nailed hazardously to some wall. He plays and jumps and breathes, because this is something he can love and be loved for, and finds others who can bang out a soliloquy just as well as he can with the thumping beat of a basketball and with more poetic justice than any Shakespearean masterpiece. If he skips out on class then it's no loss – it's not like he's going anywhere fast, and this is all he's ever going to have.

He has his moment and lives it, knowing that this (friendship and basketball, loud music blasting from his boom box and pretty girls to flirt shamelessly with) is going to be as good as it gets - and it's pretty damn good. It's just … there is heat yet no flame, contentment without fire. Street basketball hollows out all the Bad Things he has allowed to fill up his life, but only dulls the ache that comes with wanting – needing – something more. Not from the world, because Yuito only half-heartedly believes in it on the good day. What Yuito seeks is that something that has to be somewhere inside himself, because why else is he here if not to exist, somehow?

He plays basketball on their makeshift matchbox court, with others in search of a reason to have a soul. It is almost enough. If he focuses on competing and his friends and the thrill that exists in that moment when the ball is in his hands and everything else stops existing…

It is almost, almost

It's just another day. Another Saturday afternoon down at the court, another game against a group of pretenders who can't even begin to understand that cockiness is nothing without a bit of talent and self belief to back it up. Yuito is drenched through with sweat as he collapses down onto the searingly hot gravel, his breathing uneven and edgy. The crowd in his head goes wild and skimpily dressed cheerleaders fight for his attention. Yeah, this is the life.

"Here."

A grizzly voice manages to pierce through the afterglow, and Yuito forces his eyes open with a lazily smile. A drink bottle blurs into vision, followed by the lined face of some strange geezer with a severe buzzcut.

And Yuito's world ignites.